Gabriel over the White House (1933)

85 or 87 mins | Drama | 31 March 1933

Director:

Gregory La Cava

Writer:

Carey Wilson

Producer:

Walter Wanger

Cinematographer:

Bert Glennon

Editor:

Basil Wrangell

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Although onscreen credits list the author of the film's source as "anonymous," Thomas Tweed is mentioned in the copyright entry and other sources as the novel's author. According to NYT , because Tweed was British, the American edition of his novel was partly rewritten by John Billings, an American. It is not known on which edition the film was based. The title of the British edition of Tweed's book was Rinehard . Although he is not credited on the film, Gabriel over the White House was producer Walter Wanger's first assignment for M-G-M. DV 's preview running time of 102 minutes suggests that the picture was cut significantly before its general release.
       The film's protest march of the "army of the unemployed" was no doubt inspired by the "Bonus March" of 1932. In the summer of 1932, a group of 12,000-14,000 impoverished World War I veterans, known as the "Bonus Army," marched on Washington, D.C. to induce the United States Congress to appropriate funds for the immediate payment of bonuses that had been promised to them as a reward for their military service. When Congress refused to pay, half of the marchers went home, while the other half was driven out of Washington by the U.S. Army, who, under orders from President Herbert Hoover and led by Douglas MacArthur, used tear gas and tanks. In Feb 1933, while this film was being shot, Prohibition was repealed through the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.
       In a letter dated 29 Jan 1933 contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Dr. James Wingate, Director of Studio Relations of ... More Less

Although onscreen credits list the author of the film's source as "anonymous," Thomas Tweed is mentioned in the copyright entry and other sources as the novel's author. According to NYT , because Tweed was British, the American edition of his novel was partly rewritten by John Billings, an American. It is not known on which edition the film was based. The title of the British edition of Tweed's book was Rinehard . Although he is not credited on the film, Gabriel over the White House was producer Walter Wanger's first assignment for M-G-M. DV 's preview running time of 102 minutes suggests that the picture was cut significantly before its general release.
       The film's protest march of the "army of the unemployed" was no doubt inspired by the "Bonus March" of 1932. In the summer of 1932, a group of 12,000-14,000 impoverished World War I veterans, known as the "Bonus Army," marched on Washington, D.C. to induce the United States Congress to appropriate funds for the immediate payment of bonuses that had been promised to them as a reward for their military service. When Congress refused to pay, half of the marchers went home, while the other half was driven out of Washington by the U.S. Army, who, under orders from President Herbert Hoover and led by Douglas MacArthur, used tear gas and tanks. In Feb 1933, while this film was being shot, Prohibition was repealed through the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.
       In a letter dated 29 Jan 1933 contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Dr. James Wingate, Director of Studio Relations of the AMPP, suggested to M-G-M production executive Irving G. Thalberg that in the script "every effort be made to stress the constructive elements." He continues: "Even the preliminary portrayal of distressing conditions should be treated in such a way as not to over-emphasize organized discontent. We of course feel nobody...would want to do anything that might foment violence against the better elements of established government...." Wingate also wrote to Will H. Hays, president of the MPDDA, in Jan and Feb 1933 to complain that the script contained "dangerous material," in particular its depiction of the "dismissal of Congress and assumption of dictatorship by the President, [and] the institution of court martials in peace time." Wingate felt that the "portrayal of a Congress so ineffective that it has to be dismissed by a president, might possibly lead toward the enactment of legislation adversely affecting the motion picture industry." Although Wingate later assured Hays that changes had been made in the script, he wrote to M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer on 16 Feb 1933 and expressed concern that because of the attempted assassination of President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt the day before by Giuseppe Zangara, a scene in the script in which the President is shot at while riding in his automobile should be rewritten. That scene was eventually altered, and after several other minor changes were made by the studio, Wingate complimented Thalberg on his "excellent picture."
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: William Randolph Hearst, whose money backed M-G-M's Cosmopolitan brand, wrote some of Huston's presidential speeches in the film. Some modern sources claim that Hearst was responsible for the premise of the picture and used his influence to have his political views presented on screen. Louis B. Mayer, a staunch Republican, did not read the script prior to production and was dismayed when he became aware of its content, as he believed it was an indictment of Hoover and an endorsement of recently elected Franklin D. Roosevelt. By demanding retakes, Mayer delayed the film's release until after Hoover's exit from the White House. Modern sources also note that the British release print contained a different ending from American prints. In the British version, according to modern sources, Huston's character is shown as a dangerous schizophrenic, capable of doing good deeds only in certain phases of his illness. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Mar 33
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Feb 33
p. 6.
Film Daily
20 Feb 33
p. 6.
Film Daily
4 Mar 33
pp. 2-3.
Film Daily
1 Apr 33
p. 3.
HF
25 Feb 33
p. 12.
Motion Picture Herald
8 Apr 33
p. 26.
New York Times
1 Apr 33
p. 18.
Variety
4 Apr 33
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cosmopolitan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Gabriel over the White House: A Novel of the Presidency by Thomas Frederic Tweed (New York, 1933).
DETAILS
Release Date:
31 March 1933
Production Date:
began late February 1933
Copyright Claimant:
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
31 March 1933
Copyright Number:
LP3764
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85 or 87
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

Shortly after he is elected President of the United States, bachelor Judson C. Hammond hires Harley Beekman as his general secretary and longtime friend Pendola "Pendie" Molloy as his confidential secretary, and holds a press conference in the White House. When asked by reporters about the problems of unemployment, racketeering, foreign debt and hunger, Judson responds only with vague, optimistic platitudes, then announces that his answers are "not quotable." Disturbed by Judson's cavalier attitudes, Pendie gently tells her boss that he should take his duties more to heart and "do important things." Instead, Judson, under the influence of Jasper Brooks, his Secretary of State, continues his course of indifference and ignores the protests of John Bronson and his growing "army of the unemployed." Judson's attitudes change, however, when he is involved in a high-speed car accident and is plunged into a life-threatening coma. Although his doctors predict that he will die, Judson suddenly regains complete consciousness and spends two weeks in bed "thinking." When he finally emerges from his rooms, a thoughtful but energetic Judson orders Pendie to make contact with Bronson. To the surprise of his Cabinet officers, Judson defends Bronson and his right to march on Washington and fires Brooks when he challenges this new stand. Judson also changes his press policy, answering reporters' questions at length and allowing them to quote him for the first time. While the rejunevated Judson is busy implementing his new ideas, Antone Brilawksi, a notorious New York bootlegger and racketeer known as Nick Diamond, tries to bribe Bronson to halt his protest march to Washington because the presence of Bronson's camped "army" ... +


Shortly after he is elected President of the United States, bachelor Judson C. Hammond hires Harley Beekman as his general secretary and longtime friend Pendola "Pendie" Molloy as his confidential secretary, and holds a press conference in the White House. When asked by reporters about the problems of unemployment, racketeering, foreign debt and hunger, Judson responds only with vague, optimistic platitudes, then announces that his answers are "not quotable." Disturbed by Judson's cavalier attitudes, Pendie gently tells her boss that he should take his duties more to heart and "do important things." Instead, Judson, under the influence of Jasper Brooks, his Secretary of State, continues his course of indifference and ignores the protests of John Bronson and his growing "army of the unemployed." Judson's attitudes change, however, when he is involved in a high-speed car accident and is plunged into a life-threatening coma. Although his doctors predict that he will die, Judson suddenly regains complete consciousness and spends two weeks in bed "thinking." When he finally emerges from his rooms, a thoughtful but energetic Judson orders Pendie to make contact with Bronson. To the surprise of his Cabinet officers, Judson defends Bronson and his right to march on Washington and fires Brooks when he challenges this new stand. Judson also changes his press policy, answering reporters' questions at length and allowing them to quote him for the first time. While the rejunevated Judson is busy implementing his new ideas, Antone Brilawksi, a notorious New York bootlegger and racketeer known as Nick Diamond, tries to bribe Bronson to halt his protest march to Washington because the presence of Bronson's camped "army" in the city distracts the local police from Diamond's illegal activities. When Bronson bravely refuses Diamond's bribe, he is shot and killed by Diamond's henchmen as he is leading his protest marchers out of the city. Against the wishes of his Secretary of War, who wants to send in troops to stop the march, Judson allows the protest to continue and even visits the marchers' camp to announce the creation of a federal "army of construction," which will employ thousands to build new roads and buildings. After Pendie confides in Beekman, with whom she has fallen in love, her belief that Judson has been inspired by the spirit of God's messenger, Archangel Gabriel, Judson demands the resignation of all his Cabinet members. Judson then addresses the Congress and, after requesting that a national state of emergency be declared, asks that Congress relinquish its power voluntarily to him. When various Congressmen accuse him of creating a dictatorship, Judson responds that his dictatorship is based on Thomas Jefferson's definition of democracy--"a government for the greatest good of the greatest number." Fed up with bureaucratic resistance, Judson declares martial law and uses his presidential powers to dismiss the Congress. As his first act under martial law, Judson undertakes to have the prohibition amendment repealed and calls Diamond to the White House. After Judson informs the gangster that the government is going to "muscle in" on the liquor selling "racket," Diamond orders a bomb attack on a government liquor store and tries to assassinate Judson. Outraged by Diamond's attack, in which Pendie is seriously wounded, the president assigns Beekman to oversee a task force that will eliminate the country's racketeers. Using tanks and machine guns, Beekman and his men force Diamond's gang out of their hideout and, after a military trial, execute them. Judson then deals with the problem of foreign debts by calling a conference on his presidential yacht and threatening various world leaders with American military build-up if they refuse to stop their own excessive military spending. By blowing up two American battleships in front of his peers, Judson demonstrates his commitment to disarmament and encourages his allies to sign a peace covenant and repay their foreign debts. After all of the world leaders sign the historic covenant, a weak and weary Judson puts his own name on the document, then, with his life's work done, dies. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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